What Follows

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5.2: Oceans and Tomorrows

`BUT THOSE PRETTY LITTLE EYES WERE SO FULL OF LIES AND YOU SAID I COULDN’T SAVE YOU BUT I STILL TRIED`


Jacob has changed out of his tux and into a casual, light, red flannel, grey undershirt and black jeans. His face is a blur of bright anger directed at a surprised Joshua and his fists are coiled next to him, ready to be used.

"You-” Jacob spits out as he storms toward him, his sky-blue eyes furiously glistening in the sun. “What do you want with my dead sister, huh?”

Tobias and I share glances before I look back at the brewing fight, and he picks up an amused Benji.

Joshua is at a loss of words, staring at my younger brother. His eyes quickly study Jacob before he nonchalantly swipes back at his hair.

“I want nothing-” Joshua replies cautiously. “Look, Jake, I want no trouble-”

Joshua calls him ‘Jake’ because I used this nickname when I talked to him about Jacob. Which was quite often, given how Jacob was almost my best friend.

But who told him that he gets the right to call him that?

“Jake? Am I selling a fucking joke?” Jacob says angrily, stepping even closer to a cool, collected Joshua.

“I came here for five and am leaving right away-” Joshua says. “I don’t want to-”

"Fight?" Jacob snorts. “Well, you know, you’re kinda right. Fighting won’t bring my sister back from under the ground-” He then spits next to his dirty, navy blue converse. “I’m not here to fight-” Jacob bares his teeth at a seemingly unaffected Joshua. “I am here to kill-”

I drop my jaws and Benji grunts in Tobias’ frozen arms. This is just getting way out of control. I was just about to tell Tobias to drop Benji to distract them when Jacob’s fist comes flying to Joshua’s abdomen.

Joshua stumbles back, fists pressed against his stomach, as he steps on a few roses’ stipes. Instead of retaliating, he silently and patiently grits his teeth and looks up at Jacob through his hair cascade and his pain.

Jacob is standing triumphantly over him, his face screwed. And then very violently, with his breaking voice, he says, ”I hate you-”

Joshua shakes his head and tries straightening up.

Jacob kicks at the ground and points at him. “I fucking hate you, Joshua. I hate you. I hate you!” Jacob’s face has gone all red, and his golden hair is now stuck on his sweaty forehead. “I hate you-”

And I want to close my eyes and never see shit. Because looking at the world with such a worked-up, lost Jacob is just too painful.

The way Jacob glares at Joshua makes me worry if his exquisite, red-wired, ocean-blue and ocean-deep eyes would pop out. There’s an intense moment of silence where no one dares breathe. I don’t even look at Tobias even though I know that he might have a lot to say.

In fact, everyone here, living or dead, has a lot to say.

Joshua is standing straight with teary eyes when Jacob’s tensed up shoulders relax and furrowed eyebrows unknit. I eye them warily, not knowing what to expect anymore.

“I’m sorry-” Jacob whispers throatily as his flannel flutters against him. He then momentarily squeezes his eyes shut. “I don’t-I don’t-” He points at Joshua. “I don’t know what has gotten into me-”

Joshua’s response is a quick eyebrow raise and a vigorous head shake. ”No-” He says. “Don’t apologize-”

“I-I punched you and you’re older than me-” He sniffs loudly. “You could’ve crushed me but you didn’t-”

“No-”

Jacob holds his hip with one hand and quickly licks his lower lip. “You know, I’m just going crazy-” He taps his forehead and looks up at Joshua. “Just trying to pin down a reason as to why she did this-”

Joshua nods understandably, but Jacob shakes his index finger at him.

“No, you don’t get it-” He then uses both his hands to push away his blond hair strands from his transparent eyes. “I’m sixteen. My sister killed herself a day ago. Twenty four hours- sorry, years ago. And I’m having horrible thoughts that are eating at my brain-”

“The pain is unbearable-”

Jacob looks at him, pauses, and then shakes his head. ”No, no-” He paces around. “The pain is nothing compared to the thought that she found no reason to stay alive for. It’s like-” He gulps hard. “It’s like my sister looked in her tomorrows and found big blanks. Found hopelessness and just nobody to fill her world with-”

“All her strings broke-”

“She snapped-” Jacob tilts his right fist to explain his words. “And the thought that many people in the world feel this. The thought that I might one day feel this-” Jacob’s eyes fill up with tears. “It haunts me.”

“It’s not your fault-” Joshua tries to say slowly, and Jacob snaps his neck toward him.

“Really?” He lifts his eyebrows in a way that makes it seem that it pains him. ”How?" A tear tumbles down his eyelashes. “I, with all my love for her, wasn’t in any of her tomorrows-” He sniffs. “I, who was there for her, wasn’t a string she thought she could always come back to-”

I blink at him, my soul in great agony and turmoil. I for once feel guilty.

“There’s nothing you could’ve done-” Joshua tries, himself on verge of tears.

“Well, that’s how people are driven nuts, yeah?” Jacob says quietly, waveringly. “They keep thinking and thinking. Like I keep thinking of where I’ve gone wrong-” Jacob uncurls his fingers and flexes them. “I’ve been there when you ditched her. I’ve been there whenever she needed it!” He says loudly.

Joshua’s eyes flutter and tears leave his eyes. “But I haven’t-” He says. “It’s my fault-”

“Bad shit happens to all of us-” Jacob yells out. “We meet lots of shitty people at lots of shitty times-” He says, indirectly insulting Joshua. “But through it all, we know that there’s at least one person in this damned world who wouldn’t mind hearing about it!” He points at the ground. “And I have been there for her, and it was never enough! I swear I have!”

“It’s my fault-” Joshua says. “I-I hurt her-”

“And I was there for mending!” Jacob explodes. “I was there! I was always there! Why didn’t she tell me that I wasn’t being enough?! Why didn’t she tell me that you’ve damaged her way more than she could handle alone?!”

Joshua closes his mouth and shrugs. “I don’t know-”

“Well, who knows?” He yells at my tombstone. “She’s gone with her pathetic excuse of an excuse. No fucking note. No nothing. She didn’t even fucking stop to think of our tomorrows without her!”

“It’s her fate-” Joshua says, and Jacob looks at him like he has just got slapped.

“Her fate?” Jacob repeats. “Well, that’s fucking ridiculous. Because she literally shook hands with death. Her tremendous efforts to orchestrate her death was so ‘fate-like’. Buying a fucking blade, filling a fucking tub. It’s like preparing one’s funeral. It was her fucking brain that made her think that-”

“She was an anxious person-”

“Come on!" Jacob makes a face. “Who in this era doesn’t have anxiety? She could’ve asked for help. She could’ve told me how she has lost appetite for this life, and I would’ve shown her what she was missing-” Jacob rants out. “There is no excuse. Not a single good one-”

I inhale deeply and blink at the ground.

“Her parents-” Joshua blurts out, looking down. “She told me she had problems with them-”

“We all do. Parents gotta be fucking parents-” Jacob says. “Look, I’ve been trying to pin down just one reason. One reason as to why she could’ve done that and none was convincing enough.”

Joshua blinks at Jacob. “I’m sorry-”

“Yeah, whatever-” Jacob waves a dismissive hand. “That’s what everyone says anyway, right?” He sniffs. “And really, I know who to blame this on-” He pants out like talking about me tires him. “I blame her.”

"Jake-” I whisper brokenly. He doesn’t understand.

Joshua and Tobias visibly flinch at his words while Benji remains silent, his eyes jumping from one person to another.

“Or you know what?” Jacob shakes his head, changes his mind. “I blame who brought her up to be so hateful. So blind to all the helping hands, all the worldly beauties-” Jacob glares at Joshua who’s looking way too mellow for this conversation. “I don’t blame you, Joshua. I don’t blame her bullies. I don’t blame any of those things that happen frequently to the majority of us.”

“Those things aren’t nothing-” Joshua says logically. “She was insecure-”

“Bullshit!” Jacob simply refuses any of the possible reasons as to why I might have taken my life. “She was beautiful. But she wasn’t brought up to see her beauty. Her intelligence-” Jacob’s throat bobs. “You know, she always focused on the negative shit. She always highlighted all the incidents that make her the ‘ugly’ one. And she believed the trick-”

“We all have our flaws-” Joshua counters with a sniff. “Don’t be too hard on her-”

“Hard on her?" Jacob looks amused. “What has she been on us? Did she go softly and gently? Did she honour the love we gave her? You know? I don’t think any of us will be the same after she so so violently and heartlessly uprooted herself from here.” Jacob blinks. “I don’t know why she killed herself. I don’t know how it happened to her so easily, to just think that we’re worthless of her existence-”

And I want him to stop talking beyond that because it’s untrue. I just didn’t think they cared enough about me. I didn’t think that I would matter this much. Everyone treated me like a malignant tumour. Something that needed to be dealt with, but from afar, with hate, with disgust. Something that was forced on everyone.

Something with no cure but extraction. I didn’t kill myself for the fun of it. And although I made it appear like I was enjoying the process of doing the deed and ending me, every part of me requested to give them all one more day to prove themselves. One more day to breathe.

But I refused to be treated like cancer. I refused to be undermined and underestimated. And don’t tell me I didn’t try. Hell, I swear I did, but the more I tried, the worse it got. The more I became a ‘wannabe’ and the less I belonged in a world that saw me as a forgotten draft. Something that shouldn’t be read, but just...kept.

I look at Tobias, and he looks away, not wanting to meet my gaze. I figure I’m just too messed up for this universe, never mind ‘dimension’.

Joshua stares silently at my younger brother. Then very slowly he says, “Maybe we just don’t-” He blinks upwards. “-understand. Understand her-”

Jacob pinches his nose, then nods. “Not maybe-” He tells him. “I don’t know her. This weak person who took the easy road? She isn’t the Roseline I know-”

“We don’t really know what she went through-” Joshua tells him gently. “To kill herself, she must’ve suffered. Mind you, I don’t think to kill oneself is easy. I don’t think she was happy doing it-”

“She was relieved-” He retorts bitterly.

“You wouldn’t know-” Joshua argues.

“That’s the kind of shit I’d know if she’d left a note-” Jacob says accusingly with tears in his eyes.

“You’re awful-” Tobias says from behind me, and my ‘heart’ dies a little.

“I didn’t plan this-” I breathe out, shaking my head and desperately catching Tobias’ curious eyes. He sighs and looks away at them while I continue staring at his side profile in fear. He has a soft jawline, freckled cheeks and a straight nose. He’s easy on the eyes, and I can’t believe I’m already pushing him away.

Great. Not only do I repulse living people, but also the dead.

When I look back at them, I find Joshua staring at my gravestone, and Jacob pulling out a cigarette. My jaws drop, and I find myself walking up to him. What the hell? He smokes?

I am so close to him, I can clearly see the brown, blurry lines in his blue irises, around his pupils, dilate as he places the cigarette between his teeth. He then quickly whips out his silver lighter, and I quickly remove the cigarette from his lips. I immediately drop it so it wouldn’t just disappear.

“What the-” Jacob then stares at the cigarette that’s currently dirtied by dust on the ground and then shrugs before pulling out another cigarette.

“What the hell, Jake?!” I yell out as he places it between his teeth and lights it up.

I almost reach for it again, when Tobias holds me back and drops Benji. And it’s like a switch got flipped inside of me. I get so furious and violently pull against him.

“Let me go!" I shout, but I can see Tobias wrapping his arms around my waist and pull me against him.

“What is wrong with you?” He commands, but all I can see is the lit tip of Jacob’s cigarette, and all I can think of is lung cancer and death, and his dead body covered in white cloth.

“He’s killing himself!” I say and blindly stretch out my arm toward him.

“Roseline!" Tobias yells in my ears, and his voice echoes around every corner of my mind and resonates off every nerve in my body. I find it difficult to breathe and cover my ears, squeezing my eyes shut and screaming hauntingly as Tobias pulls us back and away from the scene. And I realize I like this darkness. This darkness that my eyelids mercifully give me.

“I didn’t mean it-" I screech uncontrollably. “I didn’t mean it!” I blather desperately. “I didn’t mean it-” I repeat, my hands still pressed against my ears.

I drop on my knees, taking Tobias down with me. He holds me back as I sob loudly, my soul fissuring away into nothingness. And I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t understand why I broke down like this. So suddenly?

My emotions are whirling and whirling out of control. They’re no longer red, green and yellow. They’re a rainbow of colours that I don’t and can’t understand. And they’re just sitting on my windpipe and seeping all the way back to my brain, colouring it and polluting it more that it’s possible.

And I hate the silence that’s engulfing me and nurturing me and patting me and purring at me and slowly ruining me. This silence that makes the whispers inside my head blaring speakers.

And I know that I should stop whatever I’m doing right now and listen to my brother and ex-boyfriend speak of me and how I’ve doomed their existence. I should stop crying. I should stop uselessly yelling because I know I’ll have time for this later.

I’ll have time to deal with my dark ‘rainbows’ of emotions in the ‘Darkoom’ when I’m truly all alone and miserable. I should wake the fuck up, but my mind is stuck on the day I found myself standing in front of my dead, limp body. And I remember the indifference I felt, the bitter, but certain triumph. And I want to curse myself and the days that led me to this.

That led me to watch Mom’s broken spirit, Dad’s nonchalance, Jacob’s violence, Aiden’s anger, Sierra’s betrayal, William’s love and Joshua’s brokenness. That led me to watch every abnormal impression possible. Impressions that make me doubt my familiarity with those people I once called parents, siblings, friends or lovers.

I block all my thoughts to remember breathing and remain coiled up against Tobias and Benji for a long, long time. Long enough that when I open my eyes, darkness is all I can see.

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